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The stop-and-go Trump tariffs are a ‘go’ as new talks near

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, seen here in Beijing on May 4. Ross is expected to return to China for additional trade talks. Photo Credit: AP / Mark Schiefelbein

New trade deadline

Ten days after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declared the China trade war “on hold,” President Donald Trump said he’ll impose tariffs worth $50 billion on Chinese imports and curb that nation’s investment in U.S. high-tech industries.

He said he’s looking for those changes to take effect next month.

Observers said the goal may be to create more leverage for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is due in Beijing for additional trade talks.

But Politico reports that Ross of late has been increasingly marginalized and humiliated by Trump.

Stock response

Stocks tumbled following the announcement, but also apparently due to speculation that Italy might exit the euro.

First daughter Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, had been getting trademark approvals from the Chinese government around the same time Trump struck a deal to save Chinese telecom firm ZTE, a sanctions violator, in exchange for a fine.

Ethics groups question the appearance of a conflict.

Meddler-in-chief?

Even after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, prompting the appointment of a special counsel, Trump tried to get Sessions to go back on his decision, the Times reports. Clearly, the former GOP senator didn’t do it.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is apparently looking at this previously secret meeting, as well as Trump’s tweets trolling Sessions, to decide if it fits an obstruction of justice case. No deadline has been given for the end of the probe.

Midterm melodrama

Trump trumpeted another of his evidence-free canards Tuesday, claiming, somewhat incoherently, that Democrats who “worked on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt” will somehow be “meddling” with the midterm elections.

But, as Bloomberg News reports, the Russia probe is “barely registering” in campaigns by Democrats around the country to try to win control of Congress from Republicans in November.

‘Rigged’ again

Calling the Russia probe “rigged” prepares the rationale for if and when the president tries to dodge an interview with Mueller.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani continued to pound that drum Tuesday. The president, as a candidate, said the primaries and general election were rigged against him — before winning both — and never offered a sensible explanation of what he meant.

Heck of a job

At least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico last year, according to a Harvard study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In October, when Trump made an upbeat photo op of tossing packaged paper towels to needy residents, the Puerto Rico death toll had been tallied at 16 people.

“Sixteen versus in the thousands,” Trump said then, comparing the hurricane casualties to the 1,833 people killed by Hurricane Katrina 12 years earlier. Trump described the 2005 storm as a “real catastrophe.”

“You can be very proud,” he said at the time.

President George W. Bush erroneously praised his top emergency manager Michael Brown before the failures of the Katrina disaster response were widely known.

Tennessee tightens

In the midst of a close Tennessee Senate race, Trump, at a rally, called the Democratic candidate a “tool” of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Trump also sought to link candidate Phil Bredesen to Hillary Clinton.

He also made MS-13 a subject of call-and-response, with the crowd shouting back “Animals!” In a McCarthyistic smear, he called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a “lover” of the vicious gang.

Trump also insisted again that Mexico will pay for his border wall — and indirectly attacked Republican Sen. John McCain, soliciting boos, for not going along with the health-care vote.

What else is happening

  • A Justice Department report says executives at Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, knew about “significant” abuse soon after the drug’s introduction in 1996 and concealed that information, the Times reports.
  • Billionaire anti-Trump activist Tom Steyer says Democrats such as Pelosi who tell him to call off his impeachment crusade are “normalizing” Trump.
  • Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney says he wouldn’t point to Trump as a role model for his grandchildren.
  • Roseanne Barr’s racist snipe against former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett prompted ABC to cancel the Trump-boosting comedian’s show.
  • The Memorial Day sale of Trump MAGA items drew some backlash from critics who saw it as greedy and inappropriate.
  • The CIA says North Korea isn’t about to give up its nukes, contrary to Trump’s statements about Kim Jong Un’s intent, NBC reports.

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